I estimate that I have sat through over 10,000 presentations in one form or another in my life. One thing remains constant. Regardless of how great the message, presentations not delivered well are painful to sit through. It is a quandary to me why so much time is spent preparing the message and so little time to preparing the delivery.
The value of the message is greatly diminished if delivered in a poor fashion. Effective communication is a skill that must be developed to assure the message is doesn’t get lost in the pain of a bad presentation.
I understand that pain. I remember listening to a presenter who was so nervous that I found myself wishing he would just sit down. I could not focus on the message because I felt so sorry for him.
My public speaking skills took time to develop. I successfully delivered some presentations in high school, but college was another challenge. I was being asked to present in a manner that was not congruent to my intrinsic motivations and it was stressing me out. On occasion, I could not sleep the night before and missed my assigned presentation time. The professor graciously allowed me to reschedule. I finally took my place at the front of the room to delivery my speech. With the video tape rolling and all eyes on me, I froze. It was a disaster as I muddled through it.
As long as we don’t give up, we learn our biggest lessons through our most embarrassing failures. Here are a few lessons I learned as I worked to become a better public speaker.
- Don’t fear the butterflies. It may be a sick feeling in your stomach, but they help us maintain an attitude of humility and removes arrogance and overconfidence that can disconnect you from your audience.
- Preparation is essential. My propensity is to “wing-it” if the topic is one in which I feel well versed. I have learned the hard way that it is not enough to prepare the message, but also the delivery.
- Think in terms of outlines. An instructor once said that if the information is not important enough for you to know, why is important enough for other people to know it? Outlining major ideas keeps me on track, and on time, while still affording me the opportunity to freewheel a bit.
- Always consider the audience. I even ask the meeting or conference organizers what they think the audience is interested in hearing, or about any expectations they may have for my presentation.
- Respect the allotted time. I always shudder when a speaker begins his or her presentation with the question, “So, what time are we supposed to be done? Well prepared communicators always respect the time allotted and gains this understanding in advance.
If you regularly speak to groups or just want to present your message more effectively, I encourage you to continually sharpen your skills of effective communication. This blog is committed to the importance of delivery. My last blog was focused on the importance of delivering a clear and concise message. Your audience will appreciate your efforts and your message will be much more compelling.
I experienced my first public speaking training many years ago. Last year, I invested in what I thought would be a refresher course delivered by my friend Mike Fruciano and his company Effective Presentations. It was much more than a refresher course. If this is an area you have targeted for improvement, I encourage you to check it out. In the meantime, share your thoughts.
What do you appreciate in a public speaker?